Full house

I took the crib apart today.  Maggie learned to climb out a couple of months ago and it has basically been collecting dust as she often falls asleep with her sister (and then ends up in our bed.)

It felt like the end of an era, but then is it really?

Will God grace us with the gift of raising another human here on earth, or is our full house really full?

A few months ago I wrote a note in my phone that said, “I was just reflecting on what an awesome mystery the number of children our family will contain is.”

Isn’t that the truth?  I truly couldn’t have fathomed God giving us five children (and would have maybe ran away if you told me that in my early twenties) but I’m so glad He did.

One night this summer the kids and I were playing Yahtzee and I kid you not on the first round every single one of us landed a full house.  Even after that we rolled full house after full house until we were all giggling.  It felt like it had prophetic significance, and I’ve oft wondered if it was a nudge that these 3 boys and 2 gals are indeed our full house.

About that same time we were chatting about winning money, and Theo out of the blue said, “It’s like we already hit the lottery, there were millions of eggs that could have been fertilized but ours was chosen.”

What a beautiful blessing and gift these kids are to us.  Out of the millions of eggs that could have been fertilized, theirs were chosen by a divine Creator who knew they were just who our family needed.

My goodness, it has been challenge after challenge with our kids the past few weeks.  It is not all rosy, and sometimes I look at them and wonder if I have any qualifications at all to guide them closer to Jesus and adulthood. But God chose them, out of all the possibilities, to come live on this earth under my care.

Even when they cut their baby sister’s hair into a pixie cut (yes, that was today), or lie to me, or huff and puff instead of being obedient they are mine, and I am theirs.

My children have gifted me life.  They’ve taught me more than any manual or book or lesson ever could.  They are the real world apprenticeship I needed to kick my butt into gear and start living beyond myself.

So, if God gives us another, or if he doesn’t, I’m glad they have raised me as much as I’ve raised them.

Messages in the mundane

Today was mundane.  It started off with some rotten kid attitudes and actions, which we eventually worked past.

God has healed me of much anger and rage in my parenting.  Disobedience and messes used to make me so mad that I would just pop, and then spend the rest of the day feeling awful about it.  Less and less do I have episodes like that, and God has given me the grace to generally stay calm until whichever kid experiencing big emotions is calm enough to talk.

But keeping that peace is no active task.  It takes a ton of energy out of me, and I felt fairly depleted by the afternoon.  We had a busy weekend full of revival and a birthday, so maybe that was contributing to my tiredness too.

Instead of spending the afternoon quiet time with Jesus, I blatantly disregarded Him and read my book instead.  I fell asleep for a few minutes and awoke sad.

I didn’t know why I was sad, other than I didn’t spend much time with Jesus today.  After an incident like this morning I should be running to spend time with Him.

Instead why do I so often want to do something easy and “for myself” like reading a book or zoning out on my phone?

So much of our obedience to Christ is saying no to the temptations that aren’t necessarily morally bad and yes to whatever the Holy Spirit is prompting us in the moment.  I’m pretty sure God led me to read this book, but that’s not what he had for me this afternoon.  He knew I needed to be refreshed by His words, but I wanted something easy to read that I hoped would take my mind off life for a few minutes.

Thankfully, my disobedience isn’t met with rage or anger, but compassion.  God is still ready to meet me whenever I decide to spend time with Him.

He’s always there, always present, always waiting.

It’s on us to sit with Him.

18 years

Tomorrow marks 18 years with, 18 years without.

I’ve always dreaded this year.  The year that would mark my mom being gone as long as she was in my life.  18 years.  An entire adulthood without a mom.

Her memory may grow fuzzy but the gaping hole left in my heart from her absence ceases to disappear.

No mom to help me pick out a wedding dress, no mom to be there in the early days of motherhood so I could shower, no mom to call when I need advice, or to lament on a kid’s difficult behavior.

But, I was blessed with 18 wonderful years with an amazing mom.  What a gift.

I leave you with a poem I wrote years ago, “The Paradox of Sorrow”

Often I think on
If Time had dealt
a different hand,
A life in which
My mother still stands.
But then I ponder
That with her breath,
My story would be
Unfamiliar,
Unknown to me.

Redemption Thursday

This morning the kids convinced me to go out for Halloween costume supplies.   Just the other day I had to take them all to Walmart to return something and pick up a few things and was reminded once again why I like to either go alone or take only a portion.

The 45 minutes spent in Walmart consisted of me saying “No” to the requests that came every two seconds for stuff.  By the end of it I’m sure I looked and sounded as haggard as I felt inside.  I always hope at least our chaos makes some old folks chuckle in remembrance of their busy and tired days with young children.

With this in mind I was hesitant to say yes to another shopping trip with all the kids.  I explicitly explained in the Gabe’s parking lot that they could NOT ask for everything we walked past and they had to be calm and good listeners or else this wasn’t going to work.

We made it through, found most of the costume pieces they needed and a few things I didn’t know we needed.

I was on a roll so I thought I would run into Aldi while they all ate a snack in the car.

That went really well, so when Ira pointed to Hobby Lobby across the street and our need (we use the term loosely around here) for more perler bead supplies I said “Sure” and gave them another stern warning about not asking for anything else.

We made it in and out in record time with no whining for any other art supplies!

Boy, we were really cooking with gas at this point so I pushed my limits and ran into Kroger for the things Aldi was out of.

In and out in 5 minutes.  This was a record setting day.  One for the books!

We got home with groceries, bead supplies, and a take n bake pizza in hand.  I warmed up the oven and all three boys unloaded every single grocery bag for me.

The moral of the story: don’t give up.

I’ll leave you with my favorite Henri Nouwen quote:

“Maybe, for the time being, we have to accept the many fluctuations between knowing and not knowing, seeing and not seeing, feeling and not feeling, between days when the whole world seems like a rose garden and days in which our hearts seem tied to a millstone, between moments of ecstatic joy and moments of gloomy depression, between the humble confession that the newspaper holds more than our souls can bear and the realization that it is only through facing up to the reality of our world that we can grow into our own responsibility. Maybe we have to be tolerant toward our own avoidances and denials in the conviction that we cannot force ourselves to face what we are not ready to respond to and in the hope that in one future day we will have the courage and strength to open our eyes fully and see without being destroyed. All this might be the case as long as we remember that there is no hope in denial or avoidance, neither for ourselves nor anyone else, and that new life can only be bore out of the dead planted in crushed soil.”

End of a season

Yesterday I picked loads of peppers, knowing it will likely be the last time I do so this season.  I chopped them up and put them in bags so we can use them in dinners throughout the winter.  I never put enough up to actually sustain us through the season, but it’s always such a treat pulling out something that we grew and eating it for dinner.

Today I am continuing to work on putting the gardens to bed for the winter.  I need to pull out the brown tomato plants and perhaps plant some spinach in their place.  I should find some garlic seed and get it planted, but first all the weeds from the tilled bed need taken care of. I set up a rack in our addition because it gets all that good south facing sun and will start some herbs and microgreens in there to nourish us during the cold months.

I find myself ready for the winter this year.  I normally dread it, and maybe it’s been the long summerlike weather we’ve had this autumn, but I am ready to be cozy.  Ready for the feel of the holidays, the long, sometimes dreadful, and hopefully snowy days of January and February.  I’m ready for the foliage to die back so I can resume my daily walk without getting poked by briars and bit by mosquitos.

Without those long, sometimes dreadful days of winter I wouldn’t fully appreciate the late February day that finally rises above 50 degrees, or the ease of eating garden produce all summer long.  I am not even close to being a seasonal living guru, but I have come to appreciate what each one brings.

For everything there is a season.  And as we shift out of summer/fall, I look forward to the stillness winter will bring.  I look forward to what God will speak because there are less distractions and chores, and I will take those words with me into the busy season of next year.

It sure would be different to live in a place without four distinct seasons, so even when I’m shivering I will remember the gift it is to look forward to the coming season.

The tornado

Saturday evening my dad was awakened by a strong wind that sounded like a train.  He said he didn’t really know what to do, there were no sirens going off, so he just stayed in bed.  The wind rattled the house for about 45 seconds before moving on, but wasn’t until a deputy came knocking on his door that he realized the extent of what had happened.

He called me the next morning and asked if we were ok.  Only having had a heavy rain at our place, I said “Yea we’re fine,” wondering why he had such a strong concern.

We went over a few hours later, and the whole drive I kept saying that everything looked fine.  There was absolutely no damage from the storm until we reached my dad’s neighbor.  Then we came around the bend and saw the tin from his neighbors barn strewn through my dad’s field and tree branches everywhere.

We walked his property, the land I grew up on, in disbelief that in as little as 45 seconds with no warning so much damage could be done.  We expressed our gratefulness that nothing his his house, and asked the National Weather Service guru questions when he showed up to determine if it was a tornado.

It was in fact an EF-1 tornado that came out of nowhere.  It transformed from rain storm to tornado in about a minutes time, which meant there was no way to get the tornado warnings on quick enough.

This tornado hit much of my dad’s property, completely skipped over my old bus driver’s house across the way, and snapped the old silo down yonder in half.

It’s amazing how much can change in an instant.  These trees my dad has been tending and growing for the past 40 years won’t come back.  His buildings will have to be torn down and a new one put in their place, but thankfully God protected my dad and his house.  He has numerous trees around his house, but not a single one of those ones fell or even had a branch break off.

God is good.  Even in the storm, He is good.

Jump in

Back in July, I saw a rectangle of light, in the shape of a doorway, when Brad and I were praying one evening.  As I looked at it, I got this sense of the Lord asking me if we were really ready for the new.

He was impressing upon my heart that it’s really up to us to step into the new and that He’s been waiting for us to be ready.  This whole time of transition over the past couple of years, I’ve been waiting on the Lord to push us into that new thing.  Turns out, He was waiting on us to jump.

So that evening, Brad and I held hands and jumped over an imaginary line in the middle of our living room.  A few days later we hit a rough patch with our kids, and I felt prompted to jump into the new as a family.  I explained to them that God is doing a new thing among us, and that we’re going to jump over an imaginary line as a way of saying “YES” to all God has for us.  Once again, we held hands and jumped!

It didn’t automatically make the hardships disappear, or the difficulties end, but it has changed my perspective and reminded me that the new is ALREADY HERE!

Jump in.  He’s waiting.

Creativity of a child

At dinner last night Winnie ended up with two forks.  She exclaimed excitedly, “Now I have two forks to eat with!” and proceeded to double fist mashed potatoes for a few minutes.

I sat there mesmerized thinking about how any adult who ended up with two forks would place one to the side and continue to eat with one fork, like any “normal” person should.  But Winnie saw opportunity where we see silliness.

It made me think, how often does God give us opportunities to be creative for His Kingdom and we dismiss them because they’re too weird, wild, or big?

How often to we stick to the safe life because we are offended at what God is asking us to do?

Like I was talking about the other day, our big buts get in the way.

But I will look insane doing that!

But I’m not good at that!

But that could never work out!

God doesn’t want our buts, He wants our yes.

He wants us to think creatively like Him, and if that means eating our dinners with two forks until we don’t care how goofy we look, then maybe that’s what we need to do!

Maybe we need to sell all our stuff to see what comes next.  Or maybe He just wants you to pick up a guitar and start to learn one chord.  As we take a risk to try the things God laid on our hearts, often he gives supernatural ability to see it through.  I’ve heard of people being gifted a beautiful singing voice when they couldn’t hold a tune and others being able to play an instrument with no lessons.

Our buts, our view of ourselves are holding us back.

It’s not God holding back opportunities, but the problem lies in us failing to see what God is doing.

If He’s handing you two forks, for goodness gracious, pick them up and stuff those potatoes in your mouth!  Who knows what will come of the creativity He works through you.

It may just change the world!

(Blogtober day 9)

Identity

After you’re first saved, the enemy seems content just trying to keep you tied to all the worldly stuff you now desire to give up.  It’s easy enough to keep you bound through money, addictions, etc.

After you’ve walked with the Lord for a while and are not as tied to worldly things (although it’s a lifelong process of surrender and sanctification) I think the enemy works extra hard to get you to develop identities other than a daughter or son of Christ.
For a few years I’ve been walking through a place in which the enemy is trying to get me to place identities of sickness on myself.  I have had a lot of weird symptoms come and go, and it could be easy in those times to say, “I am a person with stomach issues.” or “I can’t eat that, I think it bothers my stomach” or even “That will be too much for me to do and I won’t feel well when I come home.”.  And while sometimes we do need to refrain from certain foods and be careful about our level of exertion, I think it’s a very fine line between wisdom and fear.

Over and over again I have had to remind myself that I am a healthy person and that God does not want me to carry a burden of sickness on my shoulders.  That even if I experience weird health things, it doesn’t mean I’m a sick person.  In fact, as time has gone on, I’ve found that almost all of these symptoms are tied to stress levels.  I believe so much of my negative health has been a result of spiritual warfare.

Now, none of these issues have been that bad or life threatening.  They are things that nag, bother, and are meant to instill fear into my soul.

But, over and over again I reject the identity of sickness and put on the identity of God.

Praise the Lord, my soul,
 and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
 and heals all your diseases  
Psalm 103: 2-3

It is not the Lord who gives sickness, but the enemy.  Jesus bore the cross to heal our infirmities.  By Him stripes we are healed.

I do not want to take on an identity of sickness because once I gave my life to Christ, that is no longer someone I can be.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53: 5

Even if I experience sickness here on earth, it is not who I am and not who I will become.  I will always fall back into the arms of a Savior who already died so I can be the most healed and whole version of myself.

He died for me to be me, Melissa, daughter of the most high King Jesus.

The face you make on a really choppy ferry ride across Lake Erie. Gotta have a sense of humor, right?

(Blogtober day 8)

Jesus FOMO

We spent the weekend at Lake Erie with some of our friends and their kids.  It was wonderful and boisterous and loud and chaotic, all the things any good trip with kids should be.

There was a moment when the kids were asleep and we were chatting around the fire that I felt prompted to quietly pray.  I did for a few moments and then joined back in the conversation, but deep down wished that I could continue praying.

The next morning I took some quiet time by myself and as I was pondering the night before I heard the Lord speak, “Your fear of missing out on me has to be greater than your FOMO.”

Wow.

When we’re with others in this type of setting I’m always wanting to be a part of all the things that are happening.  Of course that’s a good thing when you’re on vacation with others, but I also know that my heart needs to keep up time with Jesus or else it’s going to grow weary.

I must be more concerned with giving Him my best time and energy than I am with missing out on any fun or cool conversations, activities, etc.

It made me realize how often I give my top time to something completely useless.  I often give my firstfruits of time to social media, to a book, to menial tasks all before I give it to the Lord.

I need to believe that first and foremost goal of my life is to not miss out on hanging out with my Savior.

Jesus wants to be our best friend.  Too often I give my best friend the shaft and hang out with the wrong crowd.

The wrong crowd of the world: social media, the news, and TV.  These are not what God has called me to give my all to, He’s called me to give my all to Him and in turn He will give me all I need.

Lord please heal me of spending my time unwisely.  Please heal me of choosing to give my best time to anything other than you.  You are worthy of my everything, Lord.

(Day 8 of Blogtober)